The following report was originally published ten years ago this week…
KELLER’S WWE RAW REPORT
DECEMBER 17, 2007
LIVE FROM BUFFALO, N.Y.
-The show opened with highlights of last week’s 15h Anniversary of Raw centered around Vince McMahon getting beaten up by Mick Foley, Undertaker, and Steve Austin. The Raw opening then aired, followed by a high-octane pryo show.
-Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler plugged the TV main events of Jeff Hardy & Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. Kennedy & Randy Orton and Ric Flair vs. Umaga. Good to see that angle brought back after a two week hiatus of not being mentioned. During the intro, Ross touted last week’s show as a “cable ratings juggernaut.” The Flair match is a way to help keep ratings momentum.
1 — MICKIE JAMES & MARIA & KELLY KELLY & MICHELLE MCCOOL vs. JILLIAN HALL & MELINA & VICTORIA & LAYLA – Santa’s Helper Match
All of the women wore Santa outfits or other Christmas-themed outfits. Jillian sang before the match. A Nick Hogan looking fan in the front row was shown jeering her. Oh the irony. Ross touted that last week’s Raw was seen by over six million people in the U.S. alone. Lawler brought up that Jamie Noble gets to go on a date with McCool on Friday’s Smackdown. It’s not often they are that overt in plugging the other show during commentary. Ross said Mickie gave the Glamazon a run for her money at Armageddon. Hardly.
WINNERS: Mickie & Maria & Kelly & Michelle in 3:00.
STAR RATING: 1/2* – I wonder if TNA’s improved quarter hour rating for its women’s match last week on Impact gave WWE the confidence this week to air a women’s match in its opening segment.
-As the babyfaces cleared the ring of the heels after the match, fending off a post-victory attack, Vince McMahon limped to the ring, looking like he had a terrible headache. He signalled for the women to leave the ring. They jumped out. Vince said last week was supposed to be a celebration of his accomplishments with Raw, he was humiliated and beaten up. He said everyone celebrated as he was embarrassed and beaten. He said he doesn’t know how any of the fans can celebrate his anguish. The crowd popped. He told the fans his feelings have been hurt and they’ve broken his heart. “I’m a human being, I’m a human being,” he stressed. He looked out at the crowd, on the verge of tears and breaking down, and waited and waited. Finally, Jeff Hardy’s music played, perhaps a few seconds later than McMahon would have preferred as he held his pause for a long time. Ross and Lawler said that may not be the most opportune time. The crowd went nuts for him and chanted, “Hardy, Hardy.” Hardy said, “Vince, let me try to explain it like this. Next week you’re going to Iraq, right?” He said when Saddam Hussein was overthrown, everyone parties. “Saddam was a cruel, self-serving control freak. Sound familiar? He named himself ruler for life. You named yourself the biggest superstar in Raw history. Dude, we don’t want to hate on you; you don’t give us a choice. You don’t give a damn about anyone, which is why no one gives a damn about you.” The crowd cheered and anticipated Vince’s reaction. Vince slowly dropped to his knees and then sat in the corner, appearing to be having a nervous breakdown of sorts. Oh good, he can walk out to his limo and have it explode again. This may actually be picking up where that storyline left off before the Benoit Family Tragedy threw out all plans this summer for the McMahon storyline.
-A commercial aired for “American Gladiators,” premiering on NBC on Monday nights in the timeslot before Raw. Hulk Hogan is shown saying, “This is not your grandmother’s American Gladiators.”
-Back in the ring, Vince was still collapsed in the corner of the ring. William Regal was trying to talk him out of the ring. Vince was non-responsive. Regal said the show must go on no matter what’s happening with him. Triple H’s music played. He walked out onto the stage with that unflattering underlighting making him look like he has the face of a 70 year old. He was in jeans, t-shirt, and leather jacket, so his body was spared the bad underlighting. He entered the ring as Vince still sat in the corner. Lawler said it could be a total breakdown we are witnessing. Hunter said to Regal, “Hey, Liberace, let me handle this. I’m the closest thing Vince has left to family.” Hunter said, “Ladies and gentlemen, mark the time, Vince McMahon has officially flipped.” Hunter sat next to Vince, put his arm around him, and said he’d be the bigger man and apologize. He ran down all of the things he did to him last week, including making out with his daughter and pouring beer on him. He said, “My bad. Now, please, for the love of God, get out of the ring before they cancel the show.” Regal asked Hunter to get out of the ring and give “this soul a modicum of compassion.” Hunter stood up and got nose-to-nose with Regal. Regal threatened to get security to throw him out of the building. Regal asked Vince if he wanted that to happen. He told him to just say the word. Vince’s face crunched up and he slowly pulled himself up by the ropes. Hunter said, “He’s fallen and he can’t get up.” Vince yanked the mic out of Hunter’s hand and began mumbling incoherently. Hunter laughed. Vince said to Regal, “You get Coach. You get Coach.” He said, “You and Coach. The two of you against him.” He pointed at Hunter. He said he hopes something bad happens tonight to each of the fans who booed him. He then began to make a crying face like a little kid. It was a nice boost for Hardy to be the instigator of McMahon’s breakdown.
-A commercial aired hyping the Tribute to the Troops special next Monday night. It touted it as the only entertainment special that airs from Iraq.
2 — TRIPLE H vs. WILLIAM REGAL & COACH
Ross and Lawler said that was the strangest opening half hour of Raw ever. Triple H, in street clothes, beat up Regal and Coach for a few seconds before Regal blindsided him and sent him face-first into the ringside steps. Regal held Hunter in the ring and Coach punched him. Triple H, of course, fought back soon and decimated both heels. He knocked Regal out of the ring, then beat up Coach in the corner. Regal grabbed brass knuckles, but when he entered the ring, Hunter backdropped him. Coach reached the knux, but Hunter saw him with them. Coach acted conciliatory and handed them to Hunter. Hunter popped Coach over the head with them in more of an insulting manner than to inflict punishment. He then gave Coach a Pedigree. It looked really sloppy. Nothing can hurt a signature move more than giving it to someone doesn’t have the skill to take it properly.
WINNER: Triple H in 3:00.
-They went to highlights of JBL costing Chris Jericho his shot at beating Randy Orton with the Walls of Jericho at the PPV last night. Ross plugged that Jericho challenged JBL to step into the ring and explain himself tonight.
-A WWE Rewind aired of Hardcore Holly & Cody Rhodes winning the WWE Tag Team Titles last week.
3 — HARDCORE HOLLY & CODY RHODES vs. LANCE CADE & TREVOR MURDOCH – World Tag Team Title match
They should really mention at the start of the show when there’s going to be a tag team title match on the show. If it’s not treated as a reason to stay tuned, then it comes across as filler. Simply treating it as a big deal can make it feel more prestigious and thus viewers are less likely to switch to Monday Night Football or whatever when it starts. It just seems so easy and obvious, it’s hard to fathom why they downplay the tag titles as they do. There’s just no upside to overlooking it like they do. Cade broke up a Alabama Slam attempt, then Murdoch gave Holly a stiff boot to the face. Cade tagged in officially and went for the pin, but Holly kicked out. Cade dropped Murdoch onto Holly with a legdrop a minute later for another two count. Holly came back with a high dropkick, then hot-tagged Cody. Cody showed nice Greg Gagne-like fire as he attacked the heels with clotheslines and then gave Murdoch a bulldog for a two count. Holly and Murdoch fought at ringside as Cody DDT’d Cade in the ring for a clean three count.
WINNERS: Rhodes & Holly in 3:00 to retain the WE Tag Team Titles.
STAR RATING: 3/4* — Good, but short.
-Lawler plugged the scheduled main event tag match. Ross plugged the Flair vs. Umaga match with Flair’s future at stake.
-Ric Flair walked out onto the stage in a blue robe. The crowd stood for Flair’s ring intro. They showed some fans bowing. Flair said into a mic on the stage, “I… I… I repeat, I will never retire, even though Mr. McMahon, the man who has allowed me to breath and keep my career going as long as I could has put an ultimatum on me – win or retire. He doesn’t want to see me get hurt on his watch. Are you kidding me? The Naitch doesn’t get hurt. I’ve been in this business for 35 years and I love this business. I love each and everyone of you. And I love being The Nature Boy! I’ve sacrificed a lifetime to be who I am. Walking away is not an option in my life. My entire family has sacrificed. Ask any of them. Truth be known, I’ve been the most selfish man alive trying to be Ric Flair. Behind these curtains are men I’ve travelled with for 30 years. ‘The American Dream’ Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat. Old friends. I’ve made new friends. Triple H. Shawn Michaels. The Undertaker. Batista. I cherish their friendship and I cherish the memories and will the rest of my life. Now it’s up to me to give to you what you believed in. I’ve got to be Ric Flair. I’ve got to be The Nature Boy. There’s a locker room full of guys half my age back there who believe in me. And I respect each and everyone of them. They are the future. I’m not ready for that journey that’s going to take me to the second half of my life. I’ve got the Human Bulldozer, Umanga [sic]. I know if I lose, it’s all over. When I walk down this ramp, I’m going to give you the best of. And whoever it is, if it’s Umaga or anybody back there, please bring your best shot forward because I want to be the best I can be. I have to be The Man. And I will not get beat in that ring without the fight of my life. If I lose tonight, thank you.”
4 — RIC FLAIR vs. UMAGA
Flair ring intro took place after the break. Ross bragged up that last week’s Raw was the highest rated show on all of TV among teens. He said some of them have certainly heard some great stories about Flair’s career. Lawler said he gets chills thinking that this match could be the last in-ring story in the life of Ric Flair. Ross said this doesn’t seem like the right time of year to see Flair for the last time. Umaga walked to the ring yelling like am uncontrollable monster who cooperates in silly comedy commercials filmed on subways at WWE studios. Flair did an early strut and let out a “whoo!” He chopped Umaga a few times. Umaga no-sold them and tossed Flair hard to the mat. At 2:00 Umaga settled into a nerve hold. Umaga charged at Flair; Flair raised an elbow. Umaga fired right back with a clothesline, but Flair avoided a fistdrop. Flair let out another “whoo!” and then threw some chops. Umaga came right back with a Samoan drop for a two count; Flair grabbed the bottom rope to end the count before three. Umaga followed with a belly-to-belly for a two count. Umaga sat down on Flair’s chest two times. Umaga went back to a nerve hold and battered Flair’s shoulder with his head repeatedly. Umaga chopped Flair in the corner. Flair fired back, but Umaga cut him off with a hard elbow to the side of the head. Ross said Flair was being physically dominated. Lawler said it wasn’t fun to watch. Ross said it’s been a disturbing night in many instances. Umaga went for a flying headbutt, but Flair moved. Flair popped up after a few seconds with a series of hard chops, and then he chop blocked Umaga’s leg twice to take him down. He missed the first and Umaga astutely didn’t oversell it; Flair improvised nicely with a second chop block. Umaga chopped Flair to the floor. Umaga followed him and threw him into the ringpost. Then he charged Flair against the security railing with a running back-first splash. Flair moved and Umaga broke through the security wall. Flair rolled into the ring just before ten to win by countout. “Yes!” shouted Ross. Flair eventually rose and said, “One… last… thing… Whoo!”
WINNER: Flair in 7:00 via countout.
STAR RATING: *1/2 — Nice dramatic story. Umaga dominated as he should have, but Flair’s survival was believable, as was the countout win. Well booked and largely well executed.
-They showed an edgier looking and acting Chris Jericho walking backstage. He had a bruised eye and looked pissed off.
-A recap aired of the Flair-Umaga match. It seems so odd that they do that right afterward. I get recapping a segment from an hour earlier, but why risk losing impatient viewers with a one minute recap of what they just watched before the commercial?
-Jericho walked out to the ring to his intro music. No sparkly t-shirt this week. He wore a black and red “Save Us” t-shirt and blue jeans with a chain dangling from it (keeping his wallet from being stolen, apparently). He definitely looked less like a 1970s glam rocker and more like a pro wrestler. He paced in the ring with mic in hand as a “Y2J” chant started. He said last night at Armageddon he beat Orton. He said he should feel ecstatic, but he beat him by DQ only. He said he was on the verge of forcing him to submit, but then “this happened.” They went to a replay of JBL interfering with the big boot. Back live, Jericho said he he stands there without a title belt and with a whole lot of questions. He said he invited JBL to show up and answer his questions, but he refused. He said since JBL won’t come to Raw, he’ll have to go to Smackdown and get some answers himself. JBL interrupted on the big screen. He said there was no need for that, via satellite. Jericho said, “You won’t come face me in person?” JBL said he cannot fathom the responsibilities he has. He said he owns his own companies and is a media mogul. He said he is low on his list of priorities, so there’s no way he’d just show up because he told him to. He said what happened was evidence. “You put your hands on me, you play with fire, you burn. Simple,” he said. Jericho said he’s not the only guy to ever get knocked down at ringside. “What kind of jackass are you, JBL?” he asked. JBL took offense at Jericho comparing him to time keeper Mark Eaton getting knocked down. JBL said he is untouchable.
Jericho said he sounds like the world’s biggest, ugliest baby. Jericho said he would definitely be on Smackdown on Friday night when he least expects it to get some answers. JBL called him a punk and told him to reconsider it. He said he’s talked to Mr. McMahon, and while he had a heck of a match with Orton and almost had him beat, he will not be getting another championship match if he comes to Smackdown. He said if he shows up at Smackdown, he won’t even be part of the Rumble. “If you mess with me, Chris, you will never, ever, evvvveeerrr beat champion uh-gain.” Jericho told JBL that he’s a fat cat who lost his edge. He asked what happened to the ass kicker, the destroyer. He asked if he sold his balls on Wall Street. “You used to be categorized with greats such as Eddie Guerrero, Batista, and Undertaker. And now you’re categorized with such guys as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Neal Cavuto, Joey Styles, and Michael Cole.” He said JBL isn’t out there because he’s become what he always feared he’d become, irrelevant. He said he’s no longer a Wrestling God, he’s a wrestling afterthought.” JBL said it’s bad enough he has to sit at the table and put guys over who can’t lace his boots. He said he’s retired, not dead. “Tug on Superman’s cape, get ready for the consequences. Put it down. Write it down. Etch it in stone. JBL is coming to Raw.” He said he still is and forever will be a Wrestling God. JBL’s music played. Jericho stared at the big screen. Good exchange. Jericho rose to the occasion and mixed in some good humor and smart-ass comments with a serious desire for revenge for JBL costing him the World Title. JBL was, as usual, excellent with his part.
-Ross plugged the main event tag match.
5 — SANTINO MARELLA (w/Maria) & CARLITO vs. PAUL LONDON & BRIAN KENDRICK
Santino and Carlito each entered the ring at once to start the match. Santino laughed at the silly Carlito for thinking he was captain of the team and would start. He hilariously explained how he starts the match and he will tag him in when he wishes. In the opening seconds Kendrick slapped Santino and outmaneuvered him. London and Carlito each tagged in a minute later. Ross complimented Carlito’s performance in the ladder match against Hardy last week. London monkey flipped Carlito, then Kendrick tagged in and hit a high crossbody of the top rope for a near fall. Santino used Maria as a shield against Maria at ringside. Carlito caught Kendrick from behind with the Back Stabber for the win. Santino touted the combination of an Italian and a Colombian. Carlito corrected him and said he’s Puerto Rican. Santino said Carlito “likes to swap spit with me who won’t want to be cool.” He added, “We’re going to be great!” Carlito didn’t quite know what to make of Santino. Ross said it will be quite an interesting journey with Carlito and Santino. What wasn’t addressed or explained is what brought them together in the first place. If Carlito is sneering at Santino’s ego and malapropisms, why would he invest his immediate future in being his partner? Why can’t the writers provide that backstory up front?
WINNERS: Carlito & Santino in 3:00.
STAR RATING: * — London & Kendrick deserve better, and this could be made into a fun long-term tag feud.
-ECW tomorrow night features MVP facing C.M. Punk.
-Todd Grisham interviewed Randy Orton backstage. Orton said, “That’s right, Todd, I am still the WWE Champion.” Orton said he did exactly what he said he was going to do. “I killed the virus,” he said. Grisham asked about facing Hardy at the Royal Rumble. Orton said Hardy must be confident, but he’s beaten big names, too, when they’ve gotten in his path. He said he isn’t just the Legend Killer, he is the killer of hopes and dreams. “Jeff Hardy has never faced anyone like me in the ring before.” He said he will find out later why becoming the new no. 1 contender is the worst thing that could have happened to him.
-Backstage, Flair chatted with a stagehand. Triple H walked in and congratulated Flair. Hunter said, “Talking to Doogie Houser over here?” He’s such a nice fellow. Hunter said it will never come to an end. Vince McMahon walked up behind Flair, put his hand around him, and said on New Year’s Eve in two weeks, his career is on the line – Flair vs. Triple H. “Happy New Year,” he said.
6 — JEFF HARDY & SHAWN MICHAELS vs. RANDY ORTON & MR. KENNEDY
On paper, this seems to be mostly a match set up to establish through association in a TV main event that Hardy and Kennedy are elevating to the level of established top tier players Orton and Michaels. They didn’t do anything to hype this match other than mention it a few times; no angles, and just that Orton promo late, so they were counting on the name value alone to draw a strong rating. Hardy came out first, then Michaels, then Kennedy, then World Champ Orton. Ross said if Hardy can beat Triple H, he can beat Orton. At 2:00, after dives by Hardy and Michaels at ringside, they cut to the final break.
Back live, Michaels tagged in Hardy against Kennedy. He missed seconds later with a backflip off the top rope. Kennedy tagged out to Orton. At 7:00 Hardy hot-tagged Hardy who went to work on Kennedy and then yanked Orton into the ring. He hit Orton with a flying forearm, but Kennedy blind-sided him with a vicious clothesline that Michaels sold like only he can. Kennedy went for a cover with an elbow in the face for a nice touch of added leverage. Orton then hit Michaels with an aggressive barrage of punches, then settled into his signature chinlock. They split the screen to replay the Kennedy clothesline as Orton settled into the chinlock. Michaels did the Flair-flip into the corner. Orton went for a cover, but Michaels kicked out. Ross re-plugged the Flair vs. Triple H match scheduled for two weeks from this night. Kennedy choked Michaels on the middle rope. Ross said the Chairman had a meltdown. He said he meant that in the most respectful way. Kennedy face-washed Michaels in the corner with the bottom of his boot leading to a two count. Kennedy has really upped his game with the intensity and viciousness of his in-ring style. He does a lot of little things well to make it seem like he’s not performing, but he’s fighting to win at all costs. Ross said he can’t wait to get home to rewatch this broadcast. Michaels went for a surprise superkick, but Kennedy caught his leg. Michaels countered with an enzuigiri. Michaels hot-tagged Hardy just as Kennedy tagged in Orton. Hardy slidekicked Kennedy, then snake-eyed Orton with a credible, hard-hitting barrage of offense. He gave Orton a face-buster for a two count, broken up by Kennedy. Michaels tackled Kennedy over the top rope to the floor. Meanwhile, Hardy set up a DDT. Orton countered into an RKO attempt. Hardy fired back with a Twist of Fate and then a Swanton for a three count.
WINNERS: Hardy & Michaels in 13:00.
STAR RATING: ***1/4 — A clinic of a main event TV tag match from start to finish. Hardy is working at a higher level than at any point in his career. That was the right finish. WWE has chosen a good time to invest in Hardy and really get behind him. The fact that he’s able to overcome the image of being too small by standing next to and looking all-around slight bigger, thicker, and taller than perennial headliner Shawn Michaels is a bonus, too. This was one of those matches where you get that feeling of WWE doing everything right in booking it and the wrestlers doing everything right in executing the gameplan.